The Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix is in no danger of being replaced through 2012, but an alternative is being considered for 2013, according to a senior Dorna official.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, the CEO of MotoGP rightsholders Dorna, said at last week’s visit to the Ducati team intro in Italy that Dorna was “talking with Texas,” the new multi-purpose facility in Austin, Texas which will host Formula 1 for ten years starting from 2012, “also, yes, but just talking. Is one of the circuits I mentioned we are discussing with them since it’s a nice project.”
The Austin venue, which is being designed by Hermann Tilke, the preferred designer of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, is currently under construction with an eye towards a 2012 Formula 1 return to the U.S. The last American F1 GP was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007. The multi-purpose 3.4-mile track is located in Wandering Creek, southeast of the Texas capital of Austin. It includes a Driving/Riding Experience and Seminar building, a membership-only Motorsports Driving Club, and a kart track. With all of the track’s energies focused on the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, Ezpeleta is willing to wait until 2013 before a proposed MotoGP race could take place.
“Again, they need to have 2012 for Formula One,” Ezpeleta said. “We are not discussing before then 2013 for that. And we are talking with them. But it’s a very nice project.”
Ezpeleta acknowledged that the Indy contract is up this year and that a one-year extension would be necessary to have a race in 2012. Will that happen? “We will see,” Ezpeleta said.
The other venues Ezpeleta discussed were Phillip Island and India. Phillip Island has been plagued by bad weather for the past several years—this year’s race weekend was bitterly cold, wet, and windy, though the race was run in the dry. The riders and Dorna would like the race moved to the start of the season, closer to April, in the Australia fall rather than the Australian spring. But the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) said recently that they had a contract through 2016 to have a race in September or October. An earlier date would put the race in conflict with the end of March Australian Formula One Grand Prix
Ezpeleta said he’d recently spoken with the AGPC and that “they are looking at different possibilities. In any case, any contract is subject to the homologation of the circuit. The circuit is not homologated and we must contemplate everything. Also contemplate the climactic conditions. Then if the circuit is homologated is not confirmed.” In other words, he held the threat of homologation over their heads. Since the FIM is solely responsible for track homologation, it’s hard to see this as a viable threat.
Among the markets where Dorna is considering expansion is India. When asked about a possible grand prix in India, Ezpeleta said the FIM had visited New Delhi, but added that the situation was similar to Austin. “The Delhi people are so concentrated to finish the circuit and to make Formula One for this year,” on the weekend of Oct. 28-30, which is a lot of work,” he said. “We have time until June to know exactly what is the situation.”
The most contentious issue Ezpeleta addressed was the status, or more accurately, the size of the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team. Ezpeleta said that “Suzuki will participate next year just with one bike,” which would be a breach of their contract which calls for two riders, and that they hadn’t confirmed their participation beyond 2011.
As to whether Dorna could bring legal action, Ezpeleta said, “Well we talk with MSMA (Motorsports Manufacturers Association) people and we need to wait first, we need to wait if they participate or not. In any case, all these cases, we are not interested in legal cases unless this can be solved something. Then we will wait exactly what is the situation, how is the future and we decide. In fact, for us the most important is to try to keep the contract in place. In our opinion they didn’t respect the contract” by fielding one rider. “And if we decide or not to go to legal action is less important than we forced to them to do it and they go do it.
“Also it’s important how will be the behavior of Suzuki for the future. To be honest, if they continue participating we don’t think we need to do any legal actions. If not, maybe yes or maybe no, but in any case is something has not a term. We can do it now or in six months or one year.”
Regardless of whether Suzuki takes part in 2012, Ezpeleta believes the grid will be full.
“We can see for sure we will have no less than 22 bikes in MotoGP class in 2012 and Moto3,” the replacement for the 125cc class, “will work very well,” he said. “We already have a lot of people contacting us. As you know, we are now waiting the offers to be the supplier of the electronic unit for Moto3 and this is the way. We are, I’d say, optimistic is maybe too much, we are concurring the things together with the teams and the manufacturers and I think things are going well.”
What may not be going well are Dorna’s plans to allow MotoGP teams to use production-based engines. World Superbike promoters, Infront Motor Sports, have been consistent and vocal in their belief that they own the rights to the only series with production-derived engines. Ezpeleta said their beef is with the FIM, not him.
“We are following our contract with the FIM and we have not any problem in the discussion of about prototypes or not prototypes; is not our discussion,” Ezpeleta said. “Nobody can say that any of the bikes that are participating in MotoGP is not a prototype, including Moto2. Then this is not our problem. Maybe it’s a problem between Infront and FIM, but this is not my problem.
A number of factories, including BMW and Aprilia, are thought to be interested in joining the series when it reverts to literbikes in 2012. But Ezpeleta said that “some manufacturers, new factories” are showing interest, but he couldn’t confirm anyone’s participation.